Monday, February 9, 2009
I'm in the middle of reading The Wettest County in the World, by Matt Bondurant. It's about Franklin County, but I had never heard of the book until I read the first chapter in the New York Times. I really have to get out more.
My own family's history with moonshine (being from two mountainous counties over) is more limited than Mr. Bonduant's. My great-great-grandfathers made their own (like every other self-respecting Scot-Irish settler in these parts, partially for entertainment and partially for medicinal reasons). My grandfather delivered moonshine loads back in the late 1920's to feed his wife and 5 kids. Then one night he was so busy making a run that he forgot to come home, during which time my grandmother had a baby, packed up it and the other kids, and returned home to her mother's house. When he went to collect his family, my grandmother told my grandfather that the next time he didn't show up would be his last. He never made a run again, and supposely never took another drop. My great aunt however, enjoyed good moonshine until the day she died, at the ripe young age of 89.
Matt Bondurant was raised in Northern Virginia but came down on the weekends and summers to see his Franklin County relatives (much like I was raised, out of the mountains, but home in the summers). Living in Franklin County now, I can only say that he is an extraordinary writer who has captured these people and their lives on paper. A brief excerpt:
Anderson watched the darkly clad figures in the Little Hub Restaurant. A few farmers sat drinking coffee. Temperance folks obviously, Anderson thought, as everyone else in the county surely must be out gallivanting around a bonfire somewhere in the mountains drinking illegal liquor. The counterman folded his arms over his bulbous midsection and smoked thoughtfully....
A faint hum in the air of the restaurant, and the man with the paper looked up. The counterman flicked his eyes to the window, then the Dunkards, and Anderson heard it too: the low moan of motors accelerating. A run coming through town....
Anderson saw through the window a long black Packard roaring up Main Street, swerving side to side, and behind it two cars, the first with a man leaning out of the passenger window with his arm extended, pointing a pistol. The Packard thundered past the courthouse and through the intersection of Court and Main, then slowed suddenly, the back end rising up; the chasing cars swerved to avoid collision, one going through a short section of clapboard fence, the other going up on the sidewalk. Anderson could see the hunched forms of the drivers, gray flannel suits, all shoulders and elbows, as they threw their bodies into the frantic steering......As the Packard passed the restaurant Anderson caught a glimpse of a passenger wearing a small bowl hat, curly hair, a tight smile on dark lips. A woman.
The Wettest County in the World is over on my Shelfari bookcase - go and read this book, pick it up from Amazon, or at the local library, but just read it.
While I'm a bookseller, I've just got the one copy, and it's mine, and I'm not selling it.